Teaching New Behavior Through Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is one of four types of learning in operant conditioning, which was conceptualized by B.F. Skinner. When you want to increase a target behavior, a reinforcement (reward) is given. Giving positive reinforcements is one of the effective ways to establish good habits or encourage good behavior. This is commonly used in schools, as opposed to punishing bad behavior.
Examples of Positive Reinforcement
· For animals: rewarding a pet cat with a treat whenever it can do a trick
· For children: rewarding a child with a compliment when the child can accomplish a specific task (doing homework)
· For workers: receiving a bonus for complete attendance for 3 months
The treat, the compliment, and the bonus—these three were given right after the desired behavior is exhibited. In these situations, the use of positive reinforcement was appropriate because it reinforces positive behavior.
Types of Reinforcers
· Natural reinforcers – an automatic or direct result of performing a specific behavior
· Social reinforcers – compliments, expression of approval
· Tangible reinforcers – material rewards: stuffed toys, chocolate, money, etc.
· Token reinforcers – awards/tokens that can be exchanged for something valuable
Positive Reinforcement in Schools
To encourage the formation of good habits, schools typically use positive reinforcement as this is a more formative approach as opposed to punishing bad behavior. Positive reinforcements can also be tools to build the self-esteem of students.
Effectiveness of Positive Reinforcers
The effectiveness of positive reinforcement depends on the timing of its delivery. The short time between desired behavior and reward. The act of giving positive reinforcement emphasizes the connection between the behavior and reward. The person who performed the behavior will associate said behavior with the reward and keep doing the behavior because of the reward.
Positive reinforcement can be a powerful strategy when you want to reinforce certain behaviors while boosting the self-esteem of an individual. Reinforcement and punishment aim to change behaviors, but in general, reinforcement is preferred in schools because it is formative. In contrast, punishment is seen as punitive. Depending on how punishment is delivered can affect a child’s self-confidence, especially if they are punished in front of their peers. Through positive reinforcement, children can be taught good habits without the need for punishment.